Matthew Perry Dies at 54
Matthew Perry, the Friends star who battled addiction for decades before, during, and after he spent ten seasons in the ensemble of one of TV’s most beloved sitcoms, has died, the L.A. Times reports. Perry was allegedly discovered unresponsive in a hot tub at his home in Los Angeles; the paper’s source did not cite a cause of death. The actor was 54.
Perry was best known for his portrayal of the witty, sarcastic and catchphrase-loving Chandler Bing on the iconic ’90s sitcom, starring in 234 episodes of the series created by David Crane and Martha Kaufman from 1994 to 2004 and getting an Emmy nomination for his work in its ninth season. (Perry was nominated for Emmys five times in total, including for his appearance in 2021’s HBO Max Friends reunion special.) Though all six of the series’ lead characters were funny, Chandler was first among equals—a charmingly self-deprecating, grown-up class clown who could wring a laugh out of nothing more than his unique inflection (“Could she be more out of my league?”).
The son of actor John Bennett Perry, Canada-born Perry yearned to make it big in Hollywood before he booked Friends at the age of 24. ”There was steam coming out of my ears, I wanted to be famous so badly,” he told the New York Times in 2002. “You want the attention, you want the bucks, and you want the best seat in the restaurant. I didn’t think what the repercussions would be.”
During the show’s run, Perry attempted to launch a film career, starring in well-received comedies including Fools Rush In, Three to Tango, and The Whole Nine Yards. After it ended, he starred on numerous short-lived TV series, including Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine, Go On, and the 2015 CBS reboot of The Odd Couple. But Perry never quite managed to escape Chandler’s long shadow.
His efforts were complicated by the lifelong battle with addiction he chronicled in his 2022 memoir, the New York Times bestseller Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing. In an interview he gave while promoting the book, Perry shared that he found it impossible to rewatch Friends because all he saw were the physical signs of his disease. “I was taking 55 Vicodin a day, I weighed 128 pounds, I was on Friends getting watched by 30 million people—and that’s why I can’t watch the show, ’cause I was brutally thin,” Perry said. “I didn’t watch the show, and haven’t watched the show, because I could go, ’Drinking, opiates, drinking, cocaine,’” he said. “I could tell season by season, by how I looked. That’s why I don’t wanna watch it, because that’s what I see.”
Perry estimated last year that he had spent around $9 million trying to stay sober. He’d been to rehab 15 times, he said; he’d had 14 surgeries on his stomach due to damage wrought from his addiction to opioids and alcohol. The worst of them came when his colon burst when Perry was 49; the actor was placed in a coma for two weeks, he said, and had to use a colostomy bag for the next nine months. “The doctors told my family that I had a 2 percent chance to live,” Perry wrote in his memoir. “I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart and your lungs. And that’s called a Hail Mary. No one survives that.”
Reps for Perry did not immediately return Vanity Fair‘s request for comment.
This story is developing…